True Australian crime stories from newspaper reports and historic crime records.
The Notorious Sydney Gunman
Tuesday 29th May 1951:
Chow Haynes: Sydney's Notorious Gunman
Ziegfield's Restaurant in King Street Sydney was no place for anyone who wanted to steer clear of trouble. Seated at a table there was ex-boxer John (Bobby) Lee, well known in Sydney's underworld. Rumour had it that he was gunning for Chow Haynes --and any man after Chow was either very brave or very stupid. Lee had already made one unsuccessful attempt and had killed the wrong man: Chow's nephew.
Lee Lay Dying In Pool Of Blood
Chow Haynes walked into Zigfield's after a tip-off that Lee was there. He pulled off six rounds from his .45 pistol and quickly left. Lee lay in a pool of blood with wounds to the thigh, chest and stomach. He died soon after.
John Frederick 'Chow' Haynes was one of Sydney's most feared men. Heavily involved in racketeering and sly grog, he was noted for his sometimes brutal standover tactics and his skill as a gunman. Later in his life he admitted to having commited almost every crime in the book: assaulting police, theft, murder -- but never sex crimes.
In 1948, with an already lengthy record at the age of thirty-four, he was arrested for the robbery and assault of George and Joyce Great. With five other men, Chow burst into the Surry Hills home and sat down to food and drink. They abused and assaulted the Greats before throwing them out into the street. After ransacking the house the gang left.
Chow received two years for his part in the crime.
Before The Courts Again
Two years after his release he was before the courts again, this time charged with the murder of Bobby Lee. The death sentence was imposed and Chow spent several months on death row before being reprieved and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Inside he quickly established his supremacy, putting himself on the right side of the warders and setting himself up as an SP bookie.
On Saturdays he would stay in his cell, listening to his radio. Other prisoners would either walk up to his cell and place their bets, or call them out from the floors below. According to another prisoner: 'He used to pay on Sunday. That's if you weren't a 'weaky' -- someone he could stand over.'
Continuing Special Treatment
The priveleges didn't end with the SP betting and the illegal radio. One warder revealed that while he was in Parramatta Gaol Chow continually received special treatment. 'While I was there they put a special padlock on his cell during the day. Only the wing officer had the key. . . during the day he would be away from his cell working in the tailor's shop. He was the only prisoner who had a special lock -- it meant we couldn't search his cell during the day'
But Chow had 'earned' the privileges. On one occasion he had helped a warder who was being attacked. Chow was knocked unconscious, but the effort did not go unrewarded. He also acted as the prison 'stooge' -- any rumblings and rumours he heard were passed on to the warders.
In 1967 Hayes was paroled. He had cancer in his one remaining kidney, with just eighteen months to live. The government decided to allow him to die in freedom.
Three years later, however, he was still alive and back before the courts. In a pub brawl he had assaulted a man with a broken beer glass -- Chow Haynes was once more back inside.
On Monday 14th February 1977 Chow was allowed parole once again: the diagnosis of cancer had been confirmed. At the age of seventy, having spent forty-eight of those years behind bars, he no longer constituted a threat to society. Chow was finally free, a frail old man determined to enjoy his last months.